Hamas, Islamic Jihad Refuse to Extend Ceasefire
Two senior Hamas officials said the terror group will not extend a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza that expires at 8:00 am IST on Friday, accusing Israel of rejecting their demands for a truce, according to AFP.
A leader of Islamic Jihad also confirmed the factions had decided not to extend the ceasefire.
"We have one position, we refuse to extend the ceasefire, it is a final decision. Israel did not propose anything," said one senior Hamas official after a long meeting with Egyptian mediators.
"It did not agree to end the blockade" of Gaza, he added, referring to a key point Hamas's list of unprecedented demands. Other demands include the effective lifting of all travel and import restrictions on Gaza - including adding a seaport and airport - and releasing terrorists.
All of the demands would allow Hamas to rearm quickly - and possible with more deadly weapons than before.
A senior Islamic Jihad leader said the decision was taken with Hamas. Asked if there were any chance it would be reversed before 8:00 am IST, he responded: "Not likely."
The delegation is led by a representative of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who signed a unity deal with Hamas in April to end a seven-year rift.
IDF 'prepared for all scenarios'
Meanwhile, a senior IDF official confirmed to Arutz Sheva on Friday morning that the IDF is ready "for all scenarios" - by air, by land, and by sea - and that forces are waiting at the ready.
"However," he said, "We took into account that this will probably be a process of up to two weeks, from the beginning of the ceasefire until a final resolution, and one that will have ups and downs - so we prepared accordingly."
The Defense Ministry has decided to extend special regulations from the Home Front Command regarding all communities within 40 kilometers of Gaza until Sunday.
The 72-hour "humanitarian ceasefire" brokered by Egypt overnight Monday/Tuesday took effect at 8:00 am Tuesday and has brought a tenuous calm to the region.
Israel reportedly accepted a possible extension of the truce as early as Wednesday, but Hamas categorically rejected the move.
IDF 'holding position'?
Earlier Wednesday, the IDF announced a limited pullout of the Gaza border area, leaving 55,000 soldiers near the fence and discharging some 30,000 reservists. IDF forces already officially left Gaza itself earlier this week.
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed in an international press conference that the IDF stands at the ready in the event the current ceasefire is violated, however.
"We closely monitor the implementation of the ceasefire on the ground, and we are holding position in the event it is violated," he stated. "The army is in the field, with reinforcements, to meet any scenario."
Since Operation Protective Edge began 31 days ago, 3,308 rockets were fired on Israel. Sixty-four IDF soldiers were killed in the fighting, as well as three Israeli civilians.
Nearly 2,000 Palestinian Arabs were also killed, roughly 50% of whom were estimated to be Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.